Aims: In the present study, polymer-drug conjugates were synthesized based on azo-bond cleavage
drug delivery approach for targeting erlotinib as an anticancer drug specifically to the colon for the proficient
treatment of colon cancer.
Background: Colon Cancer (CC) is the third commonly detected tumor worldwide and makes up about 10% of
all cases of cancers. Most of the chemotherapeutic drugs available for treating colon cancer are not only toxic to
cancerous cells but also to the normal healthy cells. Among the various approaches to get rid of the adverse
effects of anticancer agents, prodrugs are one of the most imperative approaches.
Objective: The objective of the study is to chemically modify the erlotinib drug through azo-bond linkage and
suitable spacer which will be finally linked to the polymeric backbone to give the desired polymer linked prodrug.
The azo reductase enzyme present in the colon is supposed to cleave the azo-bond specifically and augment
the drug release at the colon.
Methods: The synthesized conjugates were characterized by IR and 1H-NMR spectroscopy. The cleavage of
aromatic azo-bond resulted in a potential colon-specific liberation of drug from conjugate studied in rat fecal
contents. In vitro release profiles of polyphosphazene-linked conjugates of erlotinib have been studied at pH 1.2,
pH 6.8 and pH 7.4. The stability study was designed to exhibit that free drug was released proficiently and unmodified
from polyphosphazene-erlotinib conjugates having aromatic azo-bond in artificial colon conditions.
Results: The synthesized conjugates were demonstrated to be stable in simulated upper gastrointestinal tract
conditions. The drug release kinetics shows that all the polymer-drug conjugates of erlotinib follow zero-order
release kinetics which indicates that the drug release from the polymeric backbone is independent of its concentration.
Kinetic study of conjugates with slope (n) shows the anomalous type of release with an exponent (n) >
0.89 indicating a super case II type of release.
Conclusion: These studies indicate that polyphosphazene linked drug conjugates of erlotinib could be promising
candidates for the site-specific treatment of colon cancer with the least detrimental side-effects.